Israel must invest significantly to take care of its growing aging population, states a report presented recently to Health Ministry director general Dr. Ronni Gamzu.
The report, presented at a conference this week, calls for a drastic increase in geriatric inpatient places for the elderly in hospitals to prevent the general hospitals from turning into geriatric wards, and warns of a shortage of experts in geriatric medicine: "Patients who could be treated and rehabilitated today, so as to prevent their requiring nursing care, are sent home or to nursing homes without adequate professional considerations."
The report was written by a committee headed by Prof. Yochanan Strasman, director of the Hadassah-Mt. Scopus Hospital Unit for Rehabilitation and Geriatrics and former director general of the National Insurance Institute. Its findings were presented this week at a conference of the Association of Nursing Homes in Israel in Ramat Gan.
By 2030, the elderly population over age 65 is expected to grow 84% and reach 1.367 million, some 13.7 percent of the population, says the report. In 2009, there were 741,500 people over age 65, or 9.8 percent of the population.
Other major recommendations in the study are: expanding preventative medicine and community and home care; canceling co-payments for nursing care; expanding the teaching of gerontology during medical studies and during residency, as well as adding advanced training for specialists; and investing in geriatric rehabilitation programs to reduce hospitalization for the chronically ill.
It also calls for canceling the co-payments required today from the elderly who are chronically ill, calling it "illogical" to ask for such funds from patients who are usually over 80 - when general hospitalization is free of such co-payment demands.
Nursing care for the chronically ill is usually paid for in part by insurance, but the majority comes from the families, except for those who lack such means.
In August, Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman proposed increasing the health tax by half a percent in return for increasing the state's share in financing the costs of nursing home care in the community and hospitalization for the middle class.
The report also calls for increasing the number of doctors specializing in geriatrics from the current 1,194 to 1,895 by 2030.
Responsibility for nursing care should also be transferred from the state to the health funds, recommends the report; and the HMOs should provide cradle-to-grave service.
The Health Ministry said Gamzu had appointed the Strasman Committee to prepare for the expected growth in the number of elderly in Israel. "Next week, the report will be presented to the Deputy Health Minister, and immediately afterward working groups will be established to implement the report."
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